NY experience for $30 a person?
I would recommend Londel's Supper Club on Frederick Douglas Blvd between 139th and 140th in Harlem. Excellent soul food and I believe they have live entertainment (Jazz/R&B)on Saturday. You should be fine at $30/pp. The most expensive thing on the menu is a $24 steak. A lot of stuff in the low to mid teens. And, yes, Harlem is safe (just ask Bill CLinton) and it would truly be a NY experience. I believe the Bor C will get you there.
It seems that most tourists wind up staying around Times Square. If that's the case, enjoy the lights and the crowds but for God's sake don't eat there. It's filled with chain restaurants or restaurants that might as well be chains. You didn't come hundreds of miles for that.
There are dozens of places that would fit your needs but I'll just give you three. (And I'm going to give you subway directions from Times Square. Taking the train is definitely part of the New York experience as well. Don't worry - it's very safe.)
205 E. Houston St.
$15 buys you the best (and largest) pastrami sandwich in New York. Loads of atmosphere too. Here's a recent thread with all the info you need to know.
Short and sweet - don't use the waiter service - go to the counter, tip the carver a few bucks, have fries or a knish if you must but the pastrami is king, cash only. (Yes, there's an arcane way of paying with a credit card but make your life simple and bring cash.)
Take the F or the V train from 42nd St. and 6th Ave. Get off at the 2nd Ave. stop (about a 15 minute ride) at the front of the train and walk 2 blocks down Houston St.
16 North Moore St.
An old New York bar with plenty of atmosphere. Very good pub food that meets your price point.
Bonus points - It's right across the street from the Ghostbuster's firehouse.
And a 10 minute walk from the World Trade Center site.
Take the number 1 train from 7th Ave. and 42nd St. to Franklin St. The restaurant is right across the street.
Fall back choice -
Old Town Bar
45 E. 18th St
A great old New York saloon with decent food. It's near Union Square park and there's an outdoor Christmas market there worth visiting. The bar is a bit of a scene, especially at peak hours.
Subway - Take the R train from 7th Ave. and 42nd St. to 14th St.(Union Square.) It's about a 10 minute ride. Get off at the back end of the train and walk north a few blocks.
re: Bob Martinez
re: Bob Martinez
There's nothing that arcane about paying with a credit card. You just go to the take-out counter in the back.
I will also quibble with your pronouncement that the pastrami sandwich is the largest in NY. I think that "prize" actually goes to Carnegie. But the pastrami there sucks!
"There's nothing that arcane about paying with a credit card. You just go to the take-out counter in the back."
Katz's is a confusing place for first timers and it's not particularly obvious that you can pay for a sit down meal at the take out counter. There are separate lines for everything and multiple carver lines. Tourists tend to clog the first line thinking that it's a feeder line. It's not.
The area for waiter service isn't particularly well marked either and there are crowds of people milling about everywhere. In short it can be confusing. You've been there 50 or 60 times and it's all obvious to you. To a group of first timers from Maine it might not be and I was trying to simplify things. Paying cash isn't really a hardship. especially if you're warned in advance. More than 90% of the people do it.
"I will also quibble with your pronouncement that the pastrami sandwich is the largest in NY. I think that "prize" actually goes to Carnegie."
New York is a really big city. I'm perfectly happy to concede that Katz's sandwich may "only" be the 2nd biggest. I was trying to convey the point that having a "sandwich" for dinner in this case is not the type of thing that needs to be supplemented with side dishes. Unless you've actually seen one of these things there's no way to convey their size. Some pictures work best:
The side dishes at Katz's are forgettable. Have some pickles and leave it at that.